Gilbert couple spread thin on Valley's far-flung musical stages - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Valley And State

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Theater Gilbert couple spread thin on Valley's far-flung musical stages

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Posted: Wednesday, February 9, 2011 5:30 am

Married East Valley actors Jeannie Shubitz and Jason Fleck are barely seeing each other these days. No, it's not what you think. They're as happy as the newlywed lovebirds that they are.

However, the veteran musical theater performers had the good fortune to land the leads in the two biggest musicals currently playing the Valley. She's the fair Eliza Doolittle in the hit production of "My Fair Lady" at Arizona Broadway Theatre in Peoria. He's the unfair lawyer Billy Flynn in the smash hit "Chicago" at Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre in east Mesa.

"It's 60 miles ONE way from our Gilbert front door to Arizona Broadway," says Fleck, "so, yes we do see each other coming and going. And sometimes not even that."

For the past month, Shubitz has been performing Eliza seven to nine times a week in one of Broadway's longest shows time-wise (three hours plus). During the same period, Fleck has stepped into Flynn's dapper threads eight to nine performances a week. (For the record , no other married couple has starred in major musicals playing at the same time at major venues in the 40 years this writer has attended Valley theater).

As if criss-crossing the Valley daily to perform in high-energy shows isn't enough, both Flecks give daily voice lessons in three different locations through their Stage Door Studios. Jason doesn't even rest on Sundays, as he's the music director of The Fountains United Methodist Church in Fountain Hills.

Where does this couple get their energy? Says Shubitz, "I work out an hour every day. I just have to. It keeps me balanced. It also helps that I have a husband in the same field. He's so much on the same page as I am. Jason's very understanding, especially when we go two to three days without spending any real time with each other."

Having done at least one show a season for Arizona Broadway Dinner Theatre, Shubitz has found an artistic home at the 6-year-old West Valley dinner theater. But Mesa'sBroadway Palm holds a special place in the couple's heart -- that's where they met in December 2004, while playing the romantic leads in "Showboat."

"No. No. No. Nothing started during "Showboat." We didn't have a ‘show-mance,'" says Shubitz, "we just happened to meet during that show and hung out together along with the rest of the cast. Then I moved to New York. And Jason was in New York. Our friendship grew into something more there."

As with many young performers, the Flecks responded to the call of Broadway and served their "time" in New York City. Since both of their families live in Arizona, Shubitz said it just felt right to move back home to be close to family and friends.

But starring in musical theaters is not how Shubitz envisioned her career upon graduating from the University of Arizona in 2000. Her mind and voice was set on opera, but opera's tedious and cutthroat auditioning process proved "utterly exhausting" for the Tucson native. In fact, she was shocked when after auditioning for "Showboat," director Seth Reines offered her a contract that very day. "That NEVER happens in opera," says Shubitz.

Fleck, on the other hand, has always been at home in musical theatre, and has been a pro at it for two decades, since attending Arizona State University's music program. Being a tall (6 feet), dark and handsome baritone, he's often cast as leading men with an edge, such as "Showboat's" gambling Ravenal, "The Music Man's" conning Harold Hill and, of course, "Chicago's" razzle-dazzling Billy Flynn. "They do seem to have a lot in common," Fleck concurs.

But Shubitz says not to be fooled by her husband's smug stage characters: "He knows how hard it is to ‘come down' after a show. There's nothing better than to come home and find him there waiting to unwind with a glass of wine in hand."

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